Jayne Mansfield, born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, arrived in Hollywood in 1954, determined to become an actress. From the beginning, she wasn’t afraid to make the most of her assets, particularly her curvaceous figure, flowing platinum blonde hair and dazzling smile. She famously appeared nude in the 1963 comedy "Promises! Promises!, (and stills from the set appeared in Playboy magazine), but her best performance was generally believed to have been in 1957’s "The Wayward Bus", based on the John Steinbeck novel and costarring Joan Collins. While her screen career amounted to about a dozen less-than-memorable films, while making some bad career decisions along the way, including turning down the TV role of "The Movie Star" on Gillian's Island. However, off screen, she played the movie star role to perfection and became one of the most visible glamour girls of the era. Here is a clip interview featuring a young Jayne Mansfield:
In November 1957, shortly before her marriage to Mickey Hargitay, Mansfield bought a 40-room Mediterranean-style mansion formerly owned by Rudy Vallée at 10100 Sunset Boulevard in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles for $76,000. Mansfield had the house painted pink, with cupids surrounded by pink fluorescent lights, pink furs in the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, and a fountain spurting pink champagne, and then dubbed it the "The Pink Palace". It was, according to her, a "pink landmark". The Pink Palace was sold after her death and its subsequent owners have included Ringo Starr, Cass Elliot and Engelbert Humperdinck. In 2002, Humperdinck sold it to developers, and the house was demolished in November of that year. Here is a clip with the story behind the famous Pink Palace:
This rare interview was take three weeks before her death. In it she discussing her cabaret act on the road and her reaction to being a sex symbol. The interview sound begins at 0:45:
Mansfield was in Biloxi, Mississippi, for an engagement at the Gus Stevens Supper Club. After two appearances on the evening of June 28th, Mansfield, Sam Brody (her attorney and companion), their driver Ronnie Harrison and three of her children, (Miklós, Zoltán, and Mariska) left Biloxi after midnight in a 1966 Buick Electra 225. Their destination was New Orleans, where Mansfield was to appear on WDSU's Midday Show the next day. At about 2:25 a.m., on U.S. Highway 90 west of the Rigolets Bridge, the Buick crashed at high speed into the rear of a tractor-trailer that had slowed behind a truck spraying mosquito fogger shrouded in an insecticide fog. The three adults in the front seat died instantly. The children, asleep in the rear seat, survived with minor injuries. This clip details the grim events that took place that night:
Reports that Mansfield was decapitated are untrue, although she suffered severe head trauma. This urban legend started with the appearance in police photographs of a crashed car with its top virtually sheared off, and what resembled a blonde-haired head tangled in the car's smashed windshield. However, the blonde object was a wig Mansfield was wearing, and possibly parts of her real hair and scalp. Her death certificate stated that the immediate cause of death was a "crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain". After her death, the NHTSA recommended requiring an underride guard (a strong bar made of steel tubing) on all tractor-trailers; In America the underride guard is sometimes known as a "Mansfield bar".
The death car was saved by a private collector in Florida, where it became a roadside attraction in the 1970s. As of now, the car is housed and shown at the "Dearly Departed Tours & Artifact Museum" in Los Angeles across from Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
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